When the A's needed an ace, Frankie Montas rose to the occasion.
After All-Star pitcher Chris Bassitt suffered a potentially season-ending injury a few weeks ago, it has been the Frankie Montas Show ever since.
Even preceding the Bassitt injury, Montas was throwing the ball extremely well. Ever since his disastrous outing against the Texas Rangers on June 21 in which he gave up eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, Montas has surrendered three or fewer runs in each of his last 13 starts, including tossing seven innings of one-run ball Wednesday in the A's 5-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Montas has lowered his ERA from 4.79 to 3.57 during that span and has filled in as the A's ace in Bassitt's absence.
“There’s a lot of confidence the team has when he takes the mound," manager Bob Melvin told reporters postgame. "This was a big game for us today, we felt good about him taking the mound. Now the deeper we go into the season it seems like the more economical he is with his pitches too. He limits the walks, gets big strikeouts and he’s pitched as well as he has in his career here for the last two months.”
When Montas is on the mound, the A's are a more confident team. But Montas chooses to remain humble.
“I’m just trying to go out there and do my job," Montas said with a grin. "I’m just trying to go out there and do the best I can and give the team the best chance to win.”
The difference between Montas when he was at his lowest point this season versus now? He's pitching smarter, not harder. When you're a pitcher with his repertoire, that's not always easy.
“I definitely think he’s pitching smarter," catcher Yan Gomes said postgame. "He’s using his pitches with a little bit more conviction and a little bit more confidence. He can just sit there and throw his split or changeup at any point, it’s a plus, plus pitch but once guys start seeing him a lot they’re going to start spitting on it and start seeing it.”
Wednesday's outing from Montas helped Oakland snap a four-game losing streak. After falling out of the playoff race, the A's need a jolt of energy -- like they got from Montas today -- in order to get on a roll and sneak their way into the postseason.
“A start like this, we’re starting to see sort of that ace role from Frankie," Gomes said. "We needed him today, he took the mound like the horse he is and just gave us seven strong innings. Even when we had to navigate through some troubles you could tell he still wanted to keep going and still wanted to battle for us out there.”
"As a team, we always want to have those games and have the same mentality every day," Montas added. "In tomorrow’s game, there’s going to be a lot of guys who have that same mentality as they did today and they’re going to go out there tomorrow and swing the bats really good.”
If the A's are to make a run at October baseball, they'll need their ace now more than ever.